News / Africa

Ivory Coast’s 'iPad Government' Embraces New Media

Ivory Coast's internationally recognized President Alassane Ouattara (L) uses an iPad prior to attending African Union talks in Addis Ababa, March 10, 2012.
Ivory Coast's internationally recognized President Alassane Ouattara (L) uses an iPad prior to attending African Union talks in Addis Ababa, March 10, 2012.
Anne Look
Social networking sites and online innovation are changing the face of government, activism and business in Ivory Coast and throughout Africa. 

They are called the iPad government.  Ivory Coast's ministers take notes and send e-mails on their touchscreen tablet computers during weekly cabinet meetings.  They share and access documents through an online portal.  The government is going paperless.

Ministers are encouraged to blog, Facebook and tweet regularly.  Many of them actually do.

Guillaume Soro, currently the president of the National Assembly, is launching his own android/iPhone application.  Social media has been key to Soro's rebranding from a rebel leader to a serious politician with aspirations on the presidential palace.

Youth minister Alain Lobognon said it's about reaching citizens by whatever means possible.  And, when nearly four out of five of those citizens are under the age of 35, social networking sites are a natural choice.

The population, he says, needs to know the truth about incorrect information.  If you are not fast, he says, rumors get going and can do real damage.  Ivory Coast doesn't have a dedicated 24/7 news channel.  The state media broadcasts at 8 p.m. but by then, it can be too late. 

Instant reaction

Social media sites, like Twitter, he says, allow the government to react almost instantly to news, rumors or criticism.

Lobognon says he can send as many as 100 tweets a day -- the short 144-character messages posted to Twitter, a kind of global online chat board.  He tweets on ministry initiatives but also exchanges with constituents and replies personally to private messages.

It's good leadership, Lobognon says, but it's also good politics.

He says a Facebook or Twitter account is like instantly filling a room with 5,000 people, if you have for example, 5,000 subscribers.  Then, multiply that by 10, he says, for all your subscribers who will share or re-tweet your message and you have just reached as many as 50,000 people with the click of a button.

Could social media change the way Africans run for office?  Could the internet revolutionize the way Africans govern, find a job or even go to school?

Not yet, but that's the idea, say a group of young Ivorian e-entrepreneurs who get together most Thursday nights at a comedy club in Abidjan.

'Techies'

These young, self-professed techies are the best and brightest of the country's fledgling IT (information technology) sector.  They are programmers, strategists, designers.  They socialize amid the glow of blue screens as several tap away at their laptops or handheld tablets. 

Mohamed Diaby is director of an Abidjan marketing strategy firm, Waleya Hub, which organizes the meet-ups.  It also puts together seminars to teach "techies" how to market their ideas and young people how to use the internet.

It's a business, Diaby says, but it's also about creating "useful technology."

Technology, he says, can help Ivory Coast, and Africa, catch up when it comes to healthcare, education and other sectors.  It doesn't have all the solutions, he says, but it allows them to go faster, to skip steps along the way.  It's not just a race for money, he says.  It's a race to development.  The next step is getting the coming generation up to speed, he says, and then this will explode.

Many, like Diaby, moved back home to Ivory Coast after training and working abroad, pillars of the so-called African "brain gain."

This group of people, he says, has been around for about four years, but it was the crisis that really united them as a community.  The next step is for them to monetize their ideas, to be able to earn a living with their expertise and then ultimately take their creations to the world market.

'Testing ground'

The crisis he is referring to is the 2010 - 2011 post-election conflict that killed 3,000 people in Ivory Coast.  The tragedy proved to be a technological testing ground.

A group of programmers had already set up a site to map what was happening during the election and created the twitter hash tag #CIV2010.  Hash tags are a searchable way for people to label their tweets.  It, and other Ivorian hash tags, became sources of up-to-the minute information on news and violence.

Blogger and IT consultant, Cryriac Gbogou, says they also created the hash tag #CIVsocial to help people stranded in their homes by the fighting.

He says people could post when they, or someone they knew, needed food or help getting to a hospital.  He said they would connect that person with help or supply it themselves.  The initiative, he says, saved 82 people and resulted in two successful births done by phone with doctors talking women through the labor and delivery.

The aims of these IT inventors aren't entirely altruistic.  They do also need to make money.  The challenge now, they say, is how to do that in a country where just a tenth of the population is online and internet scams have made e-commerce near impossible.  The country is blacklisted on sites like PayPal.  DSL connections at around $60 per month are too expensive for most families.

Innovation must often precede infrastructure, they say.  They hope to create the demand that will drive the investment.

You May Like

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs UN countermeasure More

America's Most Exotic Presidential Pets

From alligators to bears, the White House has been home to some unusual presidential pets over the years More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs